With 36,747 in the house at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros got blanked by the Chicago White Sox, 7-0.
Since starting to write over here at Crawfish Boxes, I’ve been tasked with the Saturday recaps. Despite winning roughly sixty percent of the time, it seems the Astros are unable to take the gold home during the games in which I’m assigned with the game capsule. In preparation for this article, I noticed that resident ace Justin Verlander (8-2, 1.94) should have given me a better-than-average chance at finally writing about a Saturday victory. Houston’s punchless Saturdays are not just limited to my tenure here either...They’re 3-8 after today’s debacle (and 37-17 otherwise).
Verlander’s foe, Johnny Cueto (0-3, 3.53), has been around for nearly as long as he but hadn’t had very much success against Houston. He was 3-6 over 13 starts through his career, with a decent 3.64 ERA and a somewhat-less decent 1.409 WHIP. He surrendered a leadoff single to Jose Altuve in the bottom of the first, then walked two batters over the next six innings without giving up another hit.
Verlander ran into trouble in the top half of the third. After loading the bases with only one out, Luis Robert hit a two-run single into right field for a 2-0 Chicago lead. The ball was 107 MPH off the bat, but with a 7° launch angle. Jose Abreu followed immediately with a two-run double to make it 4-0, eliminating Verlander’s shot at his 10th Quality Start this season.
Despite Verlander’s troubles, he passed CC Sabathia for 16th on the All-Time strikeout list in the fourth inning, with his 3,094th. Later in the same inning, Josh Harrison crossed the plate for a run on an Altuve error. Upon closer inspection, the error came on a ball that had a .570 xBA, suggesting that Altuve, whose view was also obstructed by the umpire, may have got a raw deal.
Still in the fourth, Robert collected his third and fourth RBI of the game on a two-run, two-out double for a 7-0 lead. The knock also signaled the end of Verlander’s day. He allowed a season-high seven runs (four earned) on nine hits, walking zero and striking out three in 3 2⁄3 innings. He got 59-of-81 pitches over the plate but saw his ERA balloon to 2.30.
After Phil Maton nailed down the final out of the inning, the Astros were staring at a then-2.7 percent chance at victory. In the fourth inning.
Houston wouldn’t get another runner on base until Alex Bregman led off the seventh with a single. Bregman was immediately erased just two pitches later on a Yordan Álvarez double-play grounder, 1-6-3. It turned out that Bregman was the last Houston player to get on base until one out in the ninth. Cueto went seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, striking out five, and getting 58-of-93 pitches in the zone.
- Reynaldo López got the final six outs, surrendering only a ninth-inning single to Altuve.
- In seven starts since joining Chicago, Cueto turned in his fifth Quality Start, and first victory.
- Going 3-for-28 from the plate, the Astros in-game xBA was a pretty well-deserved .137.
- Chicago, meanwhile, went 12-for-30 with just a .219 xBA — indicating maybe some less-than-stellar defense.
- AJ Pollock was 0-for-5 for Chicago, and the rest of the Sox hit .480.
- Brandon Bielak, Maton, and Hector Neris struck out seven over 5 1/3 shutout innings.